Microfluidic magnetic bead conveyor belt†
Magnetic beads play an important role in the miniaturization of clinical diagnostics systems. In lab-on-chip platforms, beads can be made to link to a target species and can then be used for the manipulation and detection of this species. Current bead actuation systems utilize complex on-chip coil systems that offer low field strengths and little versatility. We demonstrate a novel system based on an external rotating magnetic field and on-chip soft-magnetic structures to focus the field locally. These structures were designed and optimized using finite element simulations in order to create a number of local flux density maxima. These maxima, to which the magnetic beads are attracted, move over the chip surface in a continuous way together with the rotation of the external field, resulting in a mechanism similar to that of a conveyor belt. A prototype was fabricated using PDMS molding techniques mixed with iron powder for the magnetic structures. In the subsequent experiments, a quadrupole electromagnet was used to create the rotating external field. We observed that beads formed agglomerates that rolled over the chip surface, just above the magnetic structures. Field rotation frequencies between 0.1–50 Hz were tested resulting in magnetic bead speeds of over 1 mm s−1 for the highest frequency. With this, we have shown that our novel concept works, combining a simple design and simple operation with a powerful and versatile method for bead actuation. This makes it a promising method for further research and utilization in lab-on-chip systems.
- This article is part of the themed collection: Lab on a Chip Recent Open Access Articles